Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 37-10 loss at No. 7 Georgia …
Video here from the coordinators.
For Ole Miss, the sudden struggle to run the football is alarming. While the offensive line had been a concern going into this season, the group did improve, and the Rebels were able to get things done in the running game.
That has changed. Ole Miss was held below 100 rushing yards for the second-straight game, and for the last two games has struggled to pass a combined 100 yards, getting 77 in Little Rock and being held to 46 by Georgia.
After Little Rock, Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze talked about the physicality of the Arkansas defensive front. Last night it was the physicality of the defensive front, a Georgia defensive front that while coming off its best game — in which it held Florida to less than 100 rushing yards — had a history of being run upon this season.
I would expect more of the same with regard to run struggles at LSU which will be another physical defense.
More likely, what’s happening here is not only the physicality of the opponents but the fact that the Ole Miss offensive line lacks those same gifts. This is not breaking news. It’s the way things are, and the two components most likely to bring about hope and change will be another year in the weight room and recruiting.
In the meantime, the Rebels have a lot on the table for 2012 with a chance for bowl-eligibility. At the beginning of the season I think a lot of folks would have taken five wins plus being competitive in the SEC and run to the bank. The Rebels have achieved that even in a 27-point loss to Georgia. Most of Georgia’s points were the product of big plays against a secondary that was inexperienced to begin with then beaten up with two of its top three corners on the shelf. The end result was not pretty, and as Bill Parcells used to day, ultimately, “You are what your numbers say you are.” I think that was Bill Parcells.
Ole Miss was not expected to win at Georgia. Some may have held out hope for an upset there. While I thought it was possible, I also thought it would have taken too many factors including Georgia being flat and Ole Miss being near-perfect. Neither occurred in that unlikely combination.
I had already begun to focus on Vanderbilt as the Rebels’ next real chance for bowl-eligibility. As I have mentioned here before, nothing will come easily down the stretch. A week ago the Rebels were on the emotional high of having won in Little Rock, of having beaten a good Arkansas team without playing its best game.
Now Ole Miss must regroup from a big loss, and it’s Vanderbilt that’s riding high. The Commodores have also circled this game as a great chance to become bowl-eligible. Vanderbilt, like Ole Miss, is 5-4 following its 40-0 win over Kentucky. Yes, that was Kentucky, which has likely reached mail-it-in-stage, but that was still a road game, and the 40-point whipping shows that Vanderbilt was coached and focused, as I suspect they will be against Ole Miss at Vaught-Hemingway.
Freeze faces the challenge of getting his players up after a big loss. He’s done this before, after a 66-35 loss to Texas. The Rebels were prepared for Tulane and for Alabama the next week.
This is different in the sense that there’s no cupcake seven days later. Ole Miss will have to find the way to run the ball against a Vanderbilt team that has taken over the 10th spot in rushing defense even after a shutout against Kentucky, which rushed for 105 yards in the loss.
The run struggles minimize the Rebels’ best offensive player, Jeff Scott, and in general just makes things harder in the passing game, as Donte Moncrief was held without a catch yesterday for only the second time in his career.
Freeze’s next big challenge will be to his creativity. He needs to find a different way to run the ball amid the current state of affairs.
A couple of bright spots yesterday included the Rebels’ success in run defense, holding a very talented Georgia run game to 3.3 yards per carry, and punter Jim Broadway, who averaged 45.6 yards on eight attempts with two downed inside the 20.
I asked Freeze last night if Vanderbilt would have an emotional edge because of its win streak and its 40-0 win over Kentucky. He immediately referenced what he believes will be an electric atmosphere at Vaught-Hemingway and called on Rebels’ fans to show up in big numbers. With so much still on the line, they should.
There was an electric atmosphere inside VHS for the Texas game, and I suspect there will be something similar for Vanderbilt. If there, it could help the Rebels over the hump and into a bowl game for the first time since 2009.